In chapter 18, Jesus begins with a parable of a Judge. He tells that there “was a judge who did not fear God and did not respect man.” (v 2, NASB) He also tells that there was a widow in the same city who repeatedly came to him asking for legal protection. The judge was initially resistant, but after several times he chose to give her what she wanted because she kept bothering him. Jesus explains that the point of the parable is that if even a man like this judge would give a person what they asked for just to get rid of them, how much more with God, who is just and righteous, give people what they need when they ask. I think it is interesting that Jesus chooses to use a negative example to emphasize the goodness of God.
The next parable that Luke recounts, Jesus used to address people who believed that they were righteous. He tells the story of two men who went to the temple to pray. The first was a Pharisee, and the second was a tax collector. Jesus explains that the Pharisee prayed in such a way that seemed to emphasize how much better he was than others, specifically the tax collector. In other words, the image seems to imply that he is thankful that he does not need God to make him better.
The tax collector, on the other hand, prays in an entirely different fashion. He is unwilling to lift his face to God and was saying, “was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’” (v 13) Jesus explains that it is the tax collector, not the Pharisee, who is justified in his prayer because he came before God with humility.
In one of those abrupt transitions between accounts, Luke begins to tell about people bringing their children to him. He tells us that there were so many that the disciples started to discourage them and turn them away. Jesus promptly corrected this, telling them to allow the children to come. He says to “not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.’ (v 16) Jesus is telling them that these children are not a bother, but are an example of how we should be when we approach God. We enter the kingdom of God through the innocence of a child.
Continuing with the question of entering the kingdom of God, Luke gives the account of a rich young ruler who asked Jesus what he needed to do to get into heaven. Jesus tells the ruler that he knows what the commandments say. When the ruler says that he has kept all of these Jesus ups the ante by saying, “One thing you still lack; sell all that you possess and distribute it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” (v 22)
This, however, proves one step too many for the young ruler. He was very, very rich, and loved his possessions. To give things up, was too much of a challenge. Jesus sadly points out that “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” (v 25) I think this is something we all see far too often in the world today, and sometimes in our own lives. Our love for money can be overpowering. As a result, those around him asked who could be saved. Jesus answers by pointing out that “The things that are impossible with people are possible with God.” (v 27)
Peter’s response to this is to point out that they, the disciples, had given up everything to follow Jesus. His underlying question seems to be, what does this mean for us? Will we receive eternal life? Jesus’ response is that those who have given things up will receive much more “at this time and in the age to come.” (v 30)
Jesus then took them aside and told them that they were going to Jerusalem. He told them that there he would be handed over to the Romans to be beaten and put to death. But he also told them that he would rise again on the third day. But even though it was spelled out to them, they could not understand it. The meaning had been hidden from them.
Finally, Luke closes the chapter by telling of Jesus and his disciples traveling to Jericho. On the way, they were met by a blind man who asks Jesus to heal him. Jesus tells him, “Receive your sight; your faith has made you well.” (v 42)
My takeaways from this chapter are: 1) We need to regularly and continually bring things to God in prayer. 2) We need to come before God with humility. 3) We need to come before God with the innocence of a child. 4) We need to come to God by letting go of the things of this world. And 5) we need to come before God with faith.